Coming from lived experience, our founder Marc Burrows wanted to find a new way of working with people who use drugs, as there seemed to be a disconnect between addiction treatment and public health in South Carolina. The health and well-being of injection drug users was not a focus in our states' "addiction treatment landscape". In fact, our state's drug and alcohol department was even quoted saying "advocating for needle exchanges is not an agency priority".
This was odd considering IV drug users make up the largest group of new Hep C cases and are associated with other bacterial and infectious diseases as well. Why was our addiction treatment and prevention industry not including drug user health in its work?
In an attempt to offer a solution, Marc started acquiring supplies like condoms, syringes, and other items used to reduce the spread of disease, and began giving them to clients struggling in treatment and handing them out from the trunk of his car. Instantly, he saw the effect this had on the people he was serving, since being met as someone who injects drugs with no judgement, discrimination, or coercion is not common. Every interaction felt magical and life changing for both sides. Thus, the first Syringe Services Program in South Carolina was born.
Since then, the goal of Challenges Inc has remained the same: stop the spread of preventable and unnecessary infectious diseases and other healthcare issues by providing evidence-based harm reduction tools to people who use drugs in South Carolina.
Today, our services include much more than our humble beginnings. We provide testing for HIV and Hepatitis C with linkage to free treatment for both. We offer referrals to substance use disorder treatment and help individuals navigate the treatment system, and more recently have added a low barrier MOUD option through a wonderful partnership with like minded professionals. We provide low barrier access to naloxone and give out hundreds of doses of the life saving drug every month, and we do it all from a beautiful little bus. Check it out on the Locations page. Maybe most importantly though, we are a creator of change for how our community views people who use drugs, and we hope to continue improving the lives of the people we serve and health outcomes for our community at large.
At Challenges Inc., our mission is to reduce the damage caused by the War on Drugs so that people who use drugs can live safe, healthy lives in our community.
SSPs deliver short- and long-term value to people’s lives as well as to public health, communities, first responders, and public budgets. Numerous states have authorized SSP operations in various ways, but there is more work to be done. In many states, SSPs are alive and well; in others, they operate in a legal gray area. And some states still have not authorized SSPs to provide these life-saving services and tools.
Join our director Marc Burrows and others for an online discussion about the current status and potential future of syringe services programs in red states.